How you do that is something that you have to discover for yourself. However, in principle developing a good technique will help you on all via ferrata. “It’s pointless to try and invent some special technique when there isn’t one. Once you get the hang of it, you can climb anything – strength and endurance permitting”, says Alfons.
However, although in the end everyone must develop a technique which works for them, there are a few general rules which make climbing with fixed cables easier.
#1 Posture, hand and footholds
Posture is an important factor in climbing. Your position to the rock face – or in the case of #schlegeis131 to the wall – is the foundation of climbing and dictates where the strain is felt.
Spread your weight across all four limbs, and keep your central point of balance in line with the inclination of the wall to achieve good stability. Climb with your feet, and use your arms to secure yourself. When using the cable or a handhold, grab it from above.
#2 Securing carabiner
When securing the carabiner, the direction you clip onto the cable is no longer important. Modern sets are self-locking. Special via ferrata kits can make clipping on even easier.
Only ever transfer one carabiner at a time to the next stretch of cable, or you run the risk of leaving yourself unsecured for a moment. The biggest challenge when it comes to transferring is finding a stable position. Apart from that, just try to transfer your carabiners as early as possible and to slide them up with you whilst you climb to avoid them getting caught.
Endurance is frequently underestimated in via ferrata. If you haven’t done a route before, then you need to be especially conscious of your limits. Tiredness can lead to unpleasant experiences when climbing.
On via ferrata like #schlegeis131, where the exertion level is fairly constant, managing your energy levels becomes an important part of your technique. In this case, it can help to alternate your position and climbing style to relieve the strain and make you safer.
#4 Realistic self-confidence
Most rescue missions on via ferrata happen as a result of climbers overestimating their ability. On hot days, there is an especially high risk of collapsing. Choosing a via ferrata which is the right level for your experience and ability, as well as thorough preparation helps to avoid accidents.
If you don’t take enough water with you on a hot day, there is always a danger of dehydration and exhaustion. This is just as important when climbing the dam, especially as many climbers have cycled up to the start point. Attempting a route which is too difficult is another common reason why we mountain rescuers are called out with the helicopter.
Keeping safe is also a part of via ferrata technique, especially on routes which have a risk of rock fall because of walking paths on the mountain above. Put your helmet on as soon as you get close to the wall, even if you don’t yet consider yourself in danger.
Although on some via ferrata, like the #schlegeis131, rock falls are not a danger, items such as mobile phones have been dropped. For that reason a helmet is always the be-all and end-all of your safety equipment! You should also always check that your kit is modern and in good condition. I still see outdated equipment being used. If in doubt, ask at a specialist store.
Further information on via ferrata in the holiday region of Mayrhofen-Hippach can be found here!